Bats good to ha­ve a­round

Knysna-Plett Herald - - News | Nuus -

Knys­na A­ni­mal Wel­fa­re So­cie­ty (KAWS) was the re­ci­pient of an in­te­res­ting “bi­rd and in­sect ho­tel” re­cent­ly, to help rees­ta­blish the pol­li­na­tors that died or fled du­ring the Ju­ne fi­res.

Ri­aan Bosch, a com­mer­ci­al bee far­mer of ma­ny y­e­ars, no­ted the de­va­sta­ti­on the fi­res cau­sed not on­ly a­mong the bee po­pu­la­ti­on but a­mong all pol­li­na­tors, in­clu­ding pre­da­tors re­li­ant on tho­se pol­li­na­tors. He no­ti­ced, he said, that the en­ti­re food chain was af­fected, which di­rect­ly in­flu­en­ces the e­cosys­tems in the a­rea.

“Un­be­kno­wn to me, the o­ran­ge glow that greeted me w­hen I wal­ked out of my ‘cow shed’ at 7:06 on the mor­ning of 7 Ju­ne was the start of a w­ho­le new li­fe cy­cle for me… and Mot­her Na­tu­re in our a­rea. I re­a­li­sed that a glow that b­rig­ht me­ans hu­ge loss of fau­na, flo­ra and pro­per­ty. Ne­ver did I re­a­li­se that it was on­ly the one ear of the hip­po that I was sta­ring at,” said Bosch.

Gi­ving back to na­tu­re

Whi­le dri­ving through the fi­re-stric­ken a­re­as in the week af­ter the bla­ze, Bosch said no­thing on earth could pre­pa­re him for w­hat he saw. He re­a­li­sed his days as a com­mer­ci­al bee­keeper was o­ver – not on­ly be­cau­se he lost all his own co­lo­nies but be­cau­se he sen­sed that it was ti­me for him to gi­ve back to na­tu­re. He de­ci­ded to a­bandon all his com­mer­ci­al bee­keeping in­te­re­sts and rat­her use his ex­per­ti­se to try and help na­tu­re re­sto­re it­self.

Af­ter spea­king to so­me ex­perts on bee, in­sect and bi­rd­li­fe, Bosch u­sed the non­pro­fit or­ga­ni­sa­ti­on he star­ted in 2015 – Bees for Na­tu­re – to fo­cus on ma­king pe­op­le a­wa­re of the im­por­tan­ce of plan­ting the cor­rect plants that are good for na­tu­re and e­ven ma­king “bee and but­terf­ly gar­dens” for pe­op­le.

He al­so star­ted pro­du­cing bat boxes with a spe­ci­fic de­sign for the two in­sect-e­a­ting bats found in Knys­na, the Ca­pe se­ro­ti­ne and Egyp­ti­an free-tailed bats that Bosch says are cri­ti­cal in the cy­cle of na­tu­re. “Nes­ting boxes for the spot­ted ear and barn o­wls are al­so being ma­de and I as­sist with ad­vi­ce and in­stal­la­ti­on for both owl and bat boxes,” he says.

Bosch feels mo­re pe­op­le need to be ma­de a­wa­re of the hu­ge ad­van­ta­ges that bats hold for hu­mans and the a­ma­zing mosqui­to e­a­ters t­he­se two bat spe­cies are. “The boxes do not at­tract fruit-e­a­ting bats that mig­ht le­a­ve a­ci­dic drop­pings on your car,” he says, ad­ding that fruit-e­a­ting bats do not roost in boxes but in trees.

The bi­rd and in­sect ho­tel – or pol­li­na­ti­on sta­ti­on as Bosch calls them – was pla­ced at KAWS to show that one can cre­a­te a bee-friend­ly gar­den in a small spa­ce. “All the plants in that gar­den we­re se­lected for the va­lue t­hey ha­ve for bees. The ‘pol­li­na­ti­on to­tem po­le’ in the cen­t­re is a con­cept that I de­ve­lo­ped to show that e­very gar­den in Knys­na can hou­se i­tems that would be be­ne­fi­ci­al for in­sects and bi­rds, which in ti­me would as­sist with the re­ge­ne­ra­ti­on of the burnt a­re­as,” ex­plains Bosch.

W­hat does Bees for Na­tu­re do?

T­hey cre­a­te a­wa­re­ness a­bout the im­por­tan­ce of in­sects and bats in the re­ge­ne­ra­ti­on of the burnt a­re­as.

T­hey use a ho­lis­tic ap­pro­ach to help bees and in­sects by e­du­ca­ting pe­op­le to plant beefriend­ly gar­dens that would at­tract all ty­pes of in­sects.

T­hey star­ted a pro­gram­me to breed as ma­ny co­lo­nies as pos­si­ble, to be re­le­a­sed in green belts a­round burnt a­re­as on­ce the­re is e­nough fora­ging in the a­re­as.

As­sis­ting con­sen­ting lan­do­w­ners to re­vi­ve any old hi­ves on their pro­per­ties by sup­plying new ste­ri­le hi­ves and trans­fer­ring the s­warms from old to new hi­ves whi­le in­specting for di­se­a­ses. T­he­se s­warms are then u­sed for the bree­ding pro­gram­me.

Plant pol­li­na­ti­on sta­ti­ons to­get­her with bee gar­dens.

Rai­se seed­lings for pol­li­na­tor friend­ly gar­dens.

Sup­ply free bee-ca­tch hi­ves for ho­me­o­w­ners to try and pre­vent bees from nes­ting in their ho­mes.

Sup­ply and in­stall bat boxes and owl nes­ting boxes.

* For mo­re in­for­ma­ti­on on Bees for Na­tu­re con­tact Bosch at ri­aan@bees­for­na­tu­re.com. Vi­sit www.knys­na­pletthe­rald.com to see a p­ho­to gal­le­ry.

KAWS ma­na­ger An­ne­lien Kit­ley (left) with the te­am who set up the pol­li­na­ti­on sta­ti­on: Ri­an Ven­ter, Ina S­choltz, Ro­bert Pi­ri­pi­ri and Ri­aan Bosch. INSERT: Ho­tel re­a­dy, in­sects and bi­rds wel­co­me.

P­ho­tos: S­te­fan Goo­sen

An owl box is not on­ly ai­ming at hel­ping bees boun­ce back, but ot­her bi­rd and in­sect li­fe in the a­rea too, re­sto­ring the na­tu­ral food chain.

T­his box is ai­med at at­tracting the Ca­pe se­ro­ti­ne, an in­sect-e­a­ting bat.

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